The truth about Chechnya
By Roman Khalilov
There are already more than 200.000 Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, mainly women and children. In addition, approximately, from 50.000 to 100.000 Chechen refugees are in other parts of Russia. More than 200.000 Chechen civilians are denied the way to get out of the war.
Russians are using barbaric weapons against civilians. Chechen cities (there are only three of them) and villages are being completely destroyed. Chechen nation faces the danger of being wiped out. In short, all relevant norms of international law are being violated by Russia. More precisely, there is genocide of Chechen nation.
Ironically, the West continues to finance Russia. The US national security adviser, Samuel Berger, at press briefing held in Ankara 15 November said: "It would not make sense for us to affect that money. Nor would it make sense for us to affect the IMF money ...... because that money goes to the very stability of Russia." One just can only regret that the question put forward by William Safirer : "Who would stop the flow of dollars to a regime that deliberately uses our money to fire missiles at civilians?" (The New York Times, November 15.) still has not found its answer.
Democratic forces within Russia, in the face of coming Parliamentary elections in December, are to afraid to raise a voice against this war. The Russian party Yabloko’s representative, Sergei Mitrokhin, stated on Russian TV on 14th of November that : "The Yabloko faction supports our armed forces’ actions in Chechnya and thinks that the military performing with honor the task they have been set." What is then the "armed forces action’ that is so much supported even by Yabloko. Whatever the action is, the result is well known: hundreds of thousands of Chechen refugees, 4.000 killed civilians, and about 8,500 wounded.
Unwillingly, one will come to the conclusion that the law of jungle governs Russian-Chechen relations and the West’s attitude to them. Most ironic thing in this is that just recently the West, including the UN talked so much about the rights and freedoms of ethical minorities and upheld these rights in Kosovo and Estern Timor. Almost all of us were made to believe that at least international humanitarian law was superior to both the principle of sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in "domestic’ affairs of a sovereign state.
What is then so special about Chechens? Is a life of a Chechen child is somehow less worthy than a life of a child of other nation? Or do Chechens love their families, their women, their land, their beliefs less than other nations do? As a Chechen myself, I can assure all that the answers to these questions is "no’. What is then Chechens are accused of?
Surely, the most famous accusation is the claim that Chechens were behind recent terrorist attacks in Moscow. This accusation has not been backed up by any kind of evidence. And, if Russian FSB, the daughter of former almighty KGB, cannot produce any evidence, what does it imply? The answer is, of course, that Chechens did not have any relations to the terrorist attacks in Moscow. Indeed, one does not need to have much intelligence to see that these terrorist attacks could not have given and did not give any benefits even to most extreme people of Chechnya.
And just for a moment, let’s assume that the attacks were carried out by some ethnical Chechens (even Russian propaganda never dared to claim that behind these attacks were official Chechen government). Surely, Russia would have, then, the right to claim to be acting in self-defence. But even in criminal law, the right to self-defence is limited. That is, once "unreasonable force’ is applied, this defence cannot be claimed. Why will not Chechens give up their independence? What is, then, solution to this centuries-old war? And what are the ways that are open to Russia in this issue? The reason why Chechens will not give up their independence is by now should be obvious even to outsiders. The reason is, of course, that nothing less than achieving recognition of sovereignty of the State of Chechnya shall guarantee present and future security to Chechens.
To realize this one should just look at recent and present facts in Chechnya and around it: In 1996 and in 1997 Russia signed two treaties with Chechen government ( with that very government of Chechnya whom now Russia claims to be illegitimate). Perhaps, the most important principle stated in these treaties was that Russia would never use force in its relations with Chechnya. And, just a few years latter, Russia seems to have forgotten even about the very existence of these treaties. There are two possible solutions to the problem. First and most desirable one is to recognize the Chechen state and, as quickly as possible, to help Chechens to rebuild their economy. Last part is important because only employment can be solution to the obvious problem of giving new life to the generations of fighters in Chechnya.
Second and completely unacceptable and , thank God, unachievable solution is physical destruction of 90-95 % of Chechens. Nothing less shall make Chechens to tolerate Russian rule within the Chechnya. Even, if Russia was to rebuild Chechnya and make incomes to Chechens higher than those of higher class of the US, the fact that Russia has killed almost 10% of Chechen population for last five years and the fact that Russia has been destroying Chechen nation since Russian forces under Piter the great first met Chechens in 1722, clearly mean that non of Chechens shall forget that what John Baddeley called "Russian unjust and even treacherous dealing with them’ ("The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus" John. F. Baddeley, first published in 1908).
This is so for very simple reason: the whole population of Chechens is less than one million, almost 100.000 Chechens have been killed for last five years - which is 10% of the whole Chechen population, Chechen families are usually very big (10 - 12 members) and their family connections are very strong. In addition, it is impossible for Chechens to forget their relatives that have been killed. Thus, to accept Russian rule for Chechens means to betray everything which constitutes being Chechen. And finally, there is nothing new in war for Chechens: as Lesley Blanch wrote: "vengeance was their credo, violence was their climate" ( "Sabres of Paradise" London, 1960.).
To end the credo and to change the climate two things are required: First, the West must help Russia to see that its best interests lay in being in peace with Chechnya. And second, Russia must apologize to Chechen people for the all wrong done by it to Chechens for last three centuries. If this does happen soon, I am afraid that there will be someone who shall repeat the words said by Corlotta Gall and Thomas De Waal: "... -most incredibly- a small Chechen guerrilla army that had been dismissed as "bandit groups’ brought the Russian army to its knees and forced it to withdraw" ( "A small victorious war" London, 1997). This, of course, is not desirable for both Chechnya and Russia. For Russia, it would be humiliating defeat, which might lead to calls to "restore face’ by another intervention. For Chechnya, it might mean to have another war with Russia.